Eventually Angie came back to herself and helped him clip the last few items of clothing to the fence.
“Must be powerful stuff in that document,” he said sitting down on the edge of the ground cover.
Angie joined him. She stared down at the ground for a few moments, then turned to face him. Was that just a hint of tears in her eyes? “I thought I had a pretty rough childhood, but right under my nose was something I only suspected back in Haarlem.”
She turned her body around and slid herself partway into the tent, leaving her head and shoulders sticking out, and then lay down on her back. From this position she could easily look up into Preston’s face.
She went on, “In America, you had the Franklin Scandal. Children being prostituted to very powerful people, used sometimes as blackmail, but mostly as some sort of demonic initiation into the power circle. We had the same thing here in Belgium with the Dutroux Affair. There were other cases that got less news coverage, but people who pay attention to such things can always find the stories. Those children were local. Now the big scandal, according to that paper, is children trafficked in from Eastern Europe and Asian countries. While there is large market for them in the general population, many of them are selected for use in the same political stuff as were previously the local children.”
Preston added, “So far as I know, it’s still pretty much local children in the US. Aside from orphans there are a surprising number of people putting their own kids into the business.”
“Yes,” she said. “That was the heart of the Dutroux Affair. Some of the important figures were the parents or other relatives of the girls involved. But Europeans have an oddly different attitude about the whole thing. Aside from a select group of middle class, we don’t panic at the idea. Even I don’t as a former victim. No one I knew in the orphanage system was traumatized by the sex. But we weren’t used that heavily. Kids who are forced to work prostitution are really torn down by it. We see the difference most Americans don’t see. I don’t like our Dutch casual attitude about sex, but I also don’t like the crazy … schizophrenic way Americans handle it.”
Preston nodded in agreement. “I noticed that the first time I was here in Europe. For the most part, Americans are more corrupt but refuse to admit to themselves. So when they’re bad, their hideous and extreme. Meanwhile, everyone tends to think in simplistic absolutes of black and white.”
“Exactly,” Angie said. “I hated the abuse, but it didn’t make me crazy. I’m not bitter. I’m angry with the abusers individually, perhaps, but not the whole world — certainly not the system. This paper points out this whole problem of sexual abuse of children is fully part of a much bigger picture of sexual stupidity in general. Pulling it out of that context destroys the one hope we have for helping the victims. It said this is something found in all cultures, but seems far worse in the West. That we make such a big noise of stopping it in absolute terms reflects the very weakness in our culture that makes it happen so much.”
“So, why do you suppose our boss wanted us to read it?”
She rolled over onto her side to face him, propping her head up on one elbow. “Apparently he is involved in this research, and may even have written the paper. It was presented at a conference for lawyers, though it sounds more like social research. The paper hints he would like to offer a better private setting for victim recovery, but no European government will give any room. He suggests that is primarily because major figures in all government are involved in the trade, benefit from it in one way or another. The paper mentions various scandals where the cases are bungled in such a way neither the perpetrators nor the investigators get into any real trouble.”
Preston asked, “So what does he propose to do about it?”
“Well, you know demand for this trafficking is only going to grow. The ordinary people drawn into this are the ones who get caught and prosecuted. The powerful people will seldom really get prosecuted. So the only way this business shuts down, or even slows, is through independent publication. With the Internet, there are more ways than ever to expose these people. What usually happens at the very least is the victims get to escape as much as they are going to. Whether anyone will demand changes is another matter, but the very best anyone can do really is simply exposing the situation.”
“Hm,” Preston said, looking up into the sky. He glanced back at Angie. “So in essence we are asked to be investigative reporters. We travel around and take pictures and catch these goons at their work. We probably won’t really stop anything, but we can make it more difficult and offer some limited rescue for the victims. Meanwhile, we rely on our guardian angels to keep us out of trouble until it’s our time to go. Does that sound about right?”
She laughed and fell over on her back. Gazing up at him, she said, “I suppose that’s it.”
“Actually, I rather hope it’s not much more than that. I’m really not that interested in physical confrontation. I don’t mind bashing heads when it’s necessary, but it seems to me I’ve never really had to do that much fighting. We killed two thugs with just a can of tire foam. That’s too close for my comfort as it is.”
Angie made an unpleasant face. “Me, too. But I can surely get behind something like this, regardless of the risks. I agree there is little more we can do that would actually help. Making bigger changes would mean more blood than I want to imagine.”
Later that night, as they lay in each other’s arms, Angie asked, “Preston, did you raise children?”
“Yep; sired my share. Started early and got them up and almost out of the house before their mother went crazy on me.”
She sighed. “Okay, because when I was young I had my tubes tied to avoid getting pregnant by those horrible men. I was hardly the only one; it was a common thing. The state recommended it for us and the orphanage could not prevent it, despite their teachings. I thought it was the best thing for me. I would have loved any child, but could not bear the idea of getting pregnant while still just a child myself.”
She was silent for a moment, then added, “I suppose that is why I continued working with children as an adult. Funny, but it looks like I still am working with them, though perhaps indirectly now.”
“If our guessing is correct,” Preston added.
What’s the difference between sacrificing your children to Molech and abortion? Not much.
Unwanted pregnancy these days arise from the same basic profligate sin as characterized the Canaanites in ancient times. They often had sex in the name of some heathen god characterized by a religion of fear and other basic emotional impulses. Not that much difference from the irresponsible sexual behavior of a broad sector of modern society.
In the Bible, eating one’s own children was only a hair’s breadth better than tossing them into the arms of the oven god. Giving them to an evil secular government is somewhat better because even government propagandists and conditioning can fail. But aborting them for any reason at all is still murder in God’s eyes.
What to do about it?
Call it what it is. Prophesy in the fashion God has called you. Otherwise, the ownership of the child is truly that of the mother. If she decides to murder her baby, it’s her sin. Abortion as a medical procedure exists because women have demanded it. They wanted to institute a theology and ritual (procedure) that made them feel better about it — same as tossing one already born to the oven god, Molech. In biblical law, we rather expect women to lead the way in such things. Adam failed in the Garden because he was too damned lazy to restrain Eve. Eve was not really expected to know what was good or bad on the level demanded of Adam. It was his job. Had he been consistent as a good spiritual shepherd, she would have been more resolute herself.
We do not have the leverage to make abortion illegal. We have refused to create the proper moral atmosphere. The authority God appoints to stop abortion is the woman’s own family — either blood kin or covenant family. Civil laws about such things are a failure before you start because there should never have been civil laws involved in the first place. When you create a society founded on the assumption there can be no God, it tends to cause problems with getting people to follow God’s revealed Laws. Twisting God’s Laws by building on Western intellectual and cultural assumptions does as much violence to God’s Laws as abortion does to an unborn child. America aborted holiness long before medical abortion became an issue.
All the activism and harassment in the world is unlikely to reduce the incidence of abortion much. Sure, maybe you can manipulate a woman’s feelings and save that one baby. That’s not much of an accomplishment. She still worships at the shrine of the gods that brought her to that decision. But if you feel called to do that, go ahead. I don’t support you, but I don’t bug you about it unless you ask. I’ll face you down until one of us dies and you will still be wrong.
I know what God says and what He demands of me. You aren’t Him.
Churches aren’t built; they grow.
organic — having properties characteristic of living organisms; constitutional in the structure of something, the nature of the thing
One of the most evil trends in modern church life has been convincing churches that they need an objective statement. Brothers and sisters, the church has no objective. You can probably find words in the New Testament indicating the contrary to what I say, but you won’t find the Bible teaching what we commonly see today. Evangelism was never solicitation; it was simply getting the message out. In the Mediterranean Basin of the First Century, there were certain ways one did that; those ways don’t fit our world today. There was nothing particularly holy in their methods. The current business style and corporate structure of churches is damned, though. You can call your church nice words like “vibrant” but that doesn’t mean anything outside our peculiar cultural biases, and hardly means what the early churches did.
When church obeys the leadership of the Holy Spirit, it is an extended family household which suffers few of the limitations of shared DNA. Sure, it’s nice if your kinfolks all heed the call to join together as a single church body, but it’s hardly necessary, nor even ideal. The church is a living thing; it lives. It needs no objective but to live. It’s the place where people with a shared calling to repentance strive to keep themselves all on the mission. Objective is not equivalent to mission; there is nothing to accomplish. We each as members struggle to avoid the very idea of accomplishment. We strive to change and lose our interest in accomplishment, because that’s a part of this fallen existence we hope to leave behind as we transition to eternity.
We strive to keep alive a totally personal connection between us and the Spirit of God. It’s the same Spirit Who decides how we relate to each other. Even when we list shared characteristics, it is merely a personal expression of what we perceive at the moment. It remains utterly dynamic; my list might change next week. The single constant is flux. We are living eternal certainty in a world which cannot comprehend certainty. Never forget: This world is broken and slated for complete destruction. The Bible says all Creation is looking forward to it.
So a church is an atmosphere. It is by far the single most flexible and mixed up bunch of people ever to hang together. It remains ad hoc by its nature. Every moment of every day each member remains surrendered voluntarily to the welfare of the whole because that is their own welfare. At the moment of disjuncture between individual and church welfare, we work at reducing the conflict. We might miss you if that requires departure, but we don’t grieve at the fact itself. We rejoice because it means you are moving forward, and so are we. There is no separation of benefits between the individual and the body, so long as we keep the otherworldly perspective. Only in the fallen flesh is this broken. The less fleshly, the better.
The mission is not being, nor particularly doing; the mission is living.
If I thought it would help, I’d punch their lights out.
It wouldn’t help. When their heads are stuck inside an ego spiral, spinning in solipsism, even a solid whack can’t knock them out of that loop. No one can help anyone else stop living by their ego.
For more than three decades, I’ve been working in pastoral counseling. Of all the various things pastor/preacher types do, I do more of that. You should understand up front that most of the time you don’t make much headway. You can understand all there is to know of human behavior, but there is nothing you can tell someone that will change them. If they don’t want it, it won’t happen.
That assumes you aren’t interested in playing manipulation games. Believe me, gaining converts in that fashion is all too easy. If you think numbers and influence matters, just learn how to do sales pitch. Having experienced something of what monster churches are like, I haven’t seen one of them that doesn’t practice a good bit of salesman’s manipulative psychology. That’s not for me, but it’s the easiest path by far. I know; I tried it once.
There’s a couple of fellows I know about my age who are stuck on ego issues. One acts like a six-year-old when things don’t go as he wants. He inflicts his disappointment on those who love him most, when the problem is he refuses to adjust to reality. The other one is more interested in proving how clever he is than ever being anywhere close to the facts. I know way too many women who prance on the feminist soapbox — pushy, manipulative, sneaky, untrustworthy, etc. Ego knows no gender, but the symptoms of solipsism are easy to predict by sex. The key is they are the first few steps down the path of psychopathy and refuse to come back.
Psychopaths cannot experience empathy; solipsists refuse to try. Oddly, psychopaths can learn to get along in society if they are smart enough. Solipsists keep insist society get along with them. You’ve surely met someone who is so stuck on their own egos, they can’t imagine how anyone could want something they don’t want. They define “common sense” as whatever pleases them; the rest of the world is simply rude and hateful for not thinking like them.
In the process they hurt everyone they encounter. For most of them, at some point the world comes crashing down on them, and they never have a clue what happened. They keep right on going, asserting how everyone treats them so badly. I can’t help them, but maybe I can help the rest of us deal with them.
You can’t use grace on them. They don’t respond to the Spirit of God, at least not well enough to depend on that. You have to treat them strictly according to Laws. It helps if you understand God’s Laws from a Hebrew frame of mind. That way you aren’t caught up in the worst of their follies. You may not be able to get rid of them easily; the Laws apply both ways in that sense. Still, you insulate yourself and your ministry from their foolishness by operating by the expectations of the Laws, not grace.
The clue to change is when they start showing a sensitivity to revelation; they somehow change over some undetermined period of time in ways you can discern when you speak the Word of God to them. When the Ultimate Truth starts to matter, they are on the mend. The other big clue is a measure of empathy. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. People who can feel the pains of others, who can set aside their own ego long enough to recognize the world is not simply a mirror of their souls, we know they are on the mend. They still may not get very far, but those are good signs. They are nothing less than miracles when the change comes.
Everybody serves somebody else; only God is absolute Lord.
In the previous post, I hammered out the concept of social stability as clannish extended family household living. As always, physical DNA is far less important than spiritual DNA; the ritual symbolizes something above the human plane.
The Laws of God are based on a presumption you would prefer spiritual enlightenment in your human circle of associates, but dare not assume it happens that often. Thus, the point of having Laws is to offer a plausible path to social stability and peace on earth that includes everyone. Rituals are applied to everyone in the household in hopes at least some of them will sense the divine calling first to love the Laws of God as His revelation. Then, it is hoped that builds to a point where spiritual birth occurs. God alone controls the miracle of spiritual birth and never explains how He uses His Laws to bring it about. What He does explain is that He uses repentance under His Laws to breathe life into dead spirits. We are left focusing on how to abstract the Laws to our own context, because that’s how God has chosen to grow His Kingdom.
Our modern Christian mythology of “born again” does not reflect the original teaching. It is utterly and wholly impossible for a human to choose spiritual birth because the fallen mind cannot even want it. The entire action takes place in the Spirit Realm and nothing of fallen human resources touches it. Spiritual birth is entirely a decision of God and humans have no say in the matter whatsoever, at least so far as Scripture can explain it at all.
Therefore, in conforming ourselves to the extended family household for which God designed us — hard-wired — we build the covenant family. Even under Moses, being born of Israeli blood was simply an advantage of being the shortest path to becoming a Son of the Law. You still had to make that conscious commitment to embrace the Covenant individually. Tons of help and even some coercion, but you could opt out and surrender your status along with the obligations, becoming a Gentile in effect. Granted, most of Old Testament History is loaded with people failing to grasp this fundamental fact, but the Covenant did not apply to anyone who didn’t embrace it as a moral commitment. By the same token, anyone born outside the nation could go through the conversion process and become a member of the Covenant, and thus a Son of the Law with all the privileges of full citizenship.
This symbolizes becoming a Son of the Spirit. (Yes, I know we prefer the gender neutral stuff, but in Hebrew thought and in English grammar, the masculine is the inclusive gender. Get over it.) If you are a Child of God, you are included in the family. As elder of my spiritual clan, I may not be able to integrate you into our earthly operations — what we call “the church” — but I can’t pretend God isn’t using you for His glory. Your particular doctrine and practice is yours to work out with God; you still have to figure out whether it will fit in this or that church. However, the fundamental nature of “church” is a family unit operating more or less as an ancient Hebrew clan.
Again, it’s an alien concept to the West, including Western Christianity. American Christians are so completely bathed in the Western rationalist mode that we reflexively think churches should be organized like anything else we do in Western society. We make church like a business of sorts. That is completely wrong. Conforming to God’s Laws for the church means you toss that model in the trash, and you realize this is about “marrying into” the church clan. Given we have so very far to go, just getting started thinking about it is enough for now. However, insofar as humanly possible, your church should be residing in a single space like a village. You should be tripping over each other 24/7 — physically. You don’t “go to” church; you assemble where you live at the appointed day and time to worship. You’ve been at church all along. Chew on that while we leave undefined all the possible rules and regulations.
The point is this: That all-day-long involvement in each other’s lives is how we conform to God’s standards. Social cohesion and stability is built on embracing the expectations of the Laws as a whole, but if you aren’t breathing each other’s air, you can’t begin to conform. It’s not an aspect of your earthly existence, but defines it. This is the assumption; whether we can, and to what degree we can execute this in our current social and historical context is the big question each of you must work out for yourself. If you truly want what God says is His glory, you’ll work toward that goal. His power and mercy will enable those things He regards essential for you. No one says you aren’t supposed to get involved in the wider world so fundamentally hostile to all of this, but if you have no consciousness of the ideal, you can’t represent the Kingdom very well.
Holiness is defined as a desire for God’s ways in your life.
No other force among men on this earth can equal that of family bonds. No one is more influential on you than people close to you.
What made Hitler so powerful? That faux family feeling. The allies who won WW1 were vicious in victory, crippling Germany extraordinarily. The German people feared, and Hitler built on that fear, feeding and fostering greater fear while offering a false solution. Today, almost every Western government is doing the same thing. As we chase the threads of this idea back through history, we see it was not so powerful before the birth of Western Civilization.
The one best legacy of the West is isolation. The one best legacy of Hebrew society was the very opposite of isolation. The whole aim of Moses’ Law was social stability, a sense of safety and support, a context in which the revelation of God would make the most sense. Outside that context, you cannot hope to understand revelation. It goes back farther to the Covenant of Noah. Through Hebrew eyes we see the essential demand from God was for household elders to restrain their wayward children. In case you missed it, a major failure in Eden was Adam’s laziness in his calling as spiritual shepherd. The social stability God was demanding in Noah’s covenant would come with a harsher crackdown from the clan and tribal elders in a world where no other social structure was imaginable. If you didn’t live in an extended family setting, you were fair game for anyone who felt threatened by your presence. Ostracism and isolation was death.
God says that is how it should be until the end of time. We don’t see that easily from our Western perspective because it’s alien to our culture. Satan has succeeded handsomely in nullifying God’s Laws by making them impossible to understand.
Our human nature demands a safety net, a social structure which protects and gives stability. Every social system other than God’s ideal offers only a poor imitation at best. The West fundamentally destroys that tribal structure so that other forces can gain control. The pretense of objectivity, utterly impossible with humanity and worthy of ridicule, renders us all vulnerable to any number of predators. The worst predator of all is non-family government. Under the guise of public order and welfare, the most unimaginable crimes are committed, and people are taught to think of them as “good.”
Nothing — no, nothing — replaces the power of your family influence except the Spirit Realm. That Higher Plane is inherently familial in nature. When you are drawn into the family of God, nothing else on this earth matters. Since most of humanity have no genuine connection to the Spirit Realm, we who have it are obliged by God to emulate the essence of it here on earth. Every evil in human society on earth today hinges on keeping the family out of things, making a virtue of people “standing on their own”. People cannot, do not, and will not ever stand on their own. That is an idolatrous false image of what is possible. God will insist they fall. You can picture it as the nature of things or His active hand, or any combination of the two, but everything raised against God’s divine plan for humanity will fail.
Here on earth, the very closest we can come to a spiritual family structure is not in the blood kinship, but in the covenant. Kinship alone is not enough; covenant trumps kinship. The Law of Noah demands families commit themselves to a covenant of social order — that is the substance of what Scripture says in its own context. Any structure, any legal system or policy, which seeks to reduce the covenant ties among men is an attack on God.
Want to reduce drug abuse? God will support a program in which family reaches out to their own and works with the problem child until they regain that measure of self-control necessary to escape substance addictions. Teach them to lean on family, not their own devices.
Want to reduce tort liabilities and lawsuits? Make every person involved in a company personally responsible for results; remove the legal fiction of corporate “persons”. Require everyone with any portion of ownership to work personally in the business; permit no other forms of investment. This removes the incentive to abuse everyone and anyone for the sake of profit. Yet it does not prevent profit. If the entire operation is family, there can be no union-management conflicts, and abuse of the consumer is much less likely.
This won’t solve every problem, but will reduce them to manageable levels. Even warfare becomes almost sane. If we want any of the good things we claim we desire in this world, we have to radically remake our world by remaking our understanding of what God demands.
Nothing replaces that personal touch.
In my rebuke against most churches, one thing seems increasingly common: an utter lack of genuine pastoral involvement in broken lives.
Let’s peel back the layers here. On the one hand, Scripture assumes a church stands to replace the lost legacy of tribal cohesion. There was a time when your neighbor was your close relative, someone acquainted with the details of your life simply because you wouldn’t dare be aloof to your blood kin. You couldn’t hide anything anyway. So they would be gently nosy when things weren’t going right. There was no formal rules for this, and it depended heavily on the loving shepherd care of the family elders. Your pain is my pain, so let’s at least talk about it. Maybe we can’t fix the problem, but you aren’t alone in this world.
Second, we live in a far different time and place, and in Christ we are seeking to reclaim what has been lost from those ancient tribal times. Not in all the details, but in the caring involvement, the closeness and openness we find sacred before the Lord. We rightly bristle at outsiders horning in on family business. It’s a sin for third parties to be curious; it reflects the fallen nature, the Lust of the Eyes. Good people mind their own business, and their business lies in their own kin. The fundamental flaw to all of Western history is no one has any business involving themselves in the details of your daily life if they aren’t related by blood or covenant. Any government which does not respect that is not valid, an abomination to God. Thus, as you can well discern, no Western government is valid in God’s eyes. But we are stuck with them, and we must strive against sin by holding forth holiness.
That holiness is pulling together into the spiritual bond of kinship which is actually the real thing behind the symbolism of ancient tribal life. Your Christian brothers and sisters are closer than your literal siblings. By whatever means one organizes a church body, it must include that deep personal involvement. That we are talking about people who start out as strangers means we hold this image up as our goal, the mark of holiness. We teach it as good and right and necessary to following Christ; we fight the common Western cultural bias for aloof friendliness. Aloof is good among strangers; it is evil inside the church.
But when the church is so deeply wedded to the Post-Modern Western Secularism of this day, you can’t do what Christ demands of His followers. When church is merely a gathering place for entertainment and happy emotions, folks who happen to share some smattering of ideas and religious practice, but nothing of the pastoral care atmosphere, it simply isn’t a church as the term was used by Jesus. If no one on the church staff is trained and equipped to deal with suicidal tendencies, sexual dysfunction in marriages, families under attack from the darkest demonic forces and people whose souls are broken under the strain of an evil world, then your church is badly damaged and a threat to the gospel message.
It’s one thing when people who come from this secular world, in all its sub-cultural variations, and don’t easily trust others. That’s just holy cynicism. But when the church staff does nothing to build that trust, and offers only a shallow and dismissive program, a one-size-fits-all franchise approach, they aren’t worthy of their roles. These days it does take a bit of training to overcome the secular worldly habits, but if the church organizes to become just another business franchise, that church is actually the enemy of Christ. It’s not a portal to redemption, though God in His grace may well work His redemption in spite of such failure.
The measure of success is not the number of people showing up, the size and depth of the budget, nor any of those things humans in this world use to define success. The measure of success is the redemption, however limited, of people’s broken lives because the power of God is coming, not in spite of your staff and organization, but built into the staff and organization. If no one on staff is ready to face the likes of incestuous rape in blended families, then that staff has no business leading anyone anywhere. That garbage happens in real life, and the hidden horrors of sin people wallow in is the real target, and healing such disasters is the real measure of success.
Granted, a truly determined love will work even when a good education and professional training is not available. In my experience, the vast majority of people can figure out what God requires of them once you scrape away the standard collection of lies this world tells. Too many churches build a curriculum of “holiness” which amounts to a select slice of what they already have. Simply offering the best of middle class cultural morality is not holiness. The church staff need an education which emphasizes the stark departure from such, into spiritual depth which relies on the hand of God. Miracles abound in that kind of work.
We don’t need personal reformation, but transformation.
Naomi married into her husband’s clan. As an elderly widow, she remained a member of that clan. The area around Bethlehem at that time would have included a few peaceful outsiders, but almost everyone was kin. We have a hard time imagining such a heterogeneous society today. Anyone rising in wealth and power would not face the same sort of hostile envy we take for granted today, nor would you see a heavy stratification at this point in Israel’s history between wealthy and poor. Your rich uncle down the lane might have a bigger house, but hardly much more elaborate or fancy. One of the more prominent men in their clan was Boaz.
In that rocky, hilly terrain, the clan would divide the usable land equitably right after the Conquest. Plenty of it was held in common, but arable fields would be divided by occupation rights. This is what was passed around as family inheritance. While families would try to help their own needy members, Naomi and Ruth had just arrived. They would probably have received housewarming gifts of food, but neither were willing to abuse the privilege. Ruth suggested going out to glean during this height of the barley harvest, and Naomi agreed it was a good idea. Everyone knew who Ruth was, or found out quickly enough simply by asking, but she was as yet unfamiliar with the surroundings. God steered her random search for opportunity to the field of Boaz.
Boaz came out the check on the harvest work. The operation would be managed by a handful of household servants, the work done partially by hired seasonal labor, because it was done all by hand tools. It was of necessity a little inefficient, and God had commanded through Moses allowing the unfortunate to gather the stray stalks of grain for themselves. The Law forbid the owners begrudging this scavenging, because Jehovah promised to more than make up the difference. Ruth was respectful about getting permission, and was no slacker expecting a free handout. Boaz was a good man, genuinely caring about his people, naturally wanting to know who was gleaning his portion of this common field. Upon learning she was kin by marriage, and truly in need, he encouraged Ruth to stay in with his workers, then ordered them to be generously clumsy with his crop to make it worth her while. He told her not to be shy about using the facilities, as there was plenty to share. This is a man grateful to God for rich blessings.
Even among kin, this was a generous gesture, and Ruth expressed her gratitude. Boaz explained he had been impressed with the report of her high moral standards, regarding her as an asset to the community, a gift from God. At the end of the day, she had at least a week’s worth of food to share with Naomi. Her mother-in-law was suitably impressed, and asked how it happened. Ruth had not realized Boaz was such close kin, and Naomi encouraged her to accept the generosity, not least because of Ruth’s own personal safety as a vulnerable young lady. So Ruth took full advantage of Boaz’s generosity through the end of the barley harvest, and through the later wheat harvest, as well. Things were looking good for the two women.
God’s Laws require keeping it all in family.
In the Law of Moses is a provision which requires a man marry his childless brother’s widow and raise up children to claim that brother’s inheritance. If she already has children, it would already be the duty of the extended family to manage things for them.
We understand so much without trouble these days, but we struggle over why this seemed so important that failure to perform carried such a high penalty. God took the life of Onan, son of Judah, for refusing this duty prior to the Law of Moses. It was a common Ancient Near Eastern custom which God included in the covenant of Israel. We may not know much about the origin of the custom, but we can abstract the Law of Moses enough to understand why God included it.
There are two things at issue here. First, DNA is God’s thing in this world. Don’t mess with it. God decides when people conceive children, and has a plan for each life. It is wholly His prerogative, when people have sex, what comes from it. I’m not suggesting contraception is evil, nor artificial insemination; raising that issue simply confuses the deeper moral considerations. It’s not about performance, but about the moral fabric and how we understand it. That we struggle to understand simply indicates how far we have drifted from the truth of God’s Laws. In the broadest sense, ancient peoples regarded childlessness as shameful, as children were one of the highest blessings and privileges of life. If God doesn’t want you to have children, nothing you do can frustrate His will. Neither can you prevent them if He requires it of you. God is in charge and humans can only make their situations more or less painful within His plans.
Second is the fundamental requirement of all God’s Laws which demand social stability. That’s pretty much the whole point of every commandment regarding our conduct with each other. After the Fall, there are limits to what we can do about social stability, but God’s Laws are the path to the pinnacle, and any departure guarantees His wrath because it guarantees some measure of failure. All the business of sex restrictions and requirements touch on this, and all our human ingenuity will hardly change human nature. What matters here is building a communal life based on observing limits God says are hard-wired into our very existence, limits which the human intellect cannot discover any other way except through revelation. God requires certain things in order to offer His promise life will be as good as it can be.
We were designed, and God demands, we live communally in an extended family setting. There may be reasons for rare individuals to depart that setting, but the basic requirement stands. There is no better life possible on this earth than the tribal setting. It’s all about cohesion, and human cohesion reaches it’s highest state in the tribal lifestyle. This is the single greatest factor in keeping Satan out of your lives and being open to the higher provisions of what the Laws of God offer. If you cannot live in close proximity to your kinfolks, you are damaged, and need healing. Nothing man can devise will offer a stronger bond of cohesion. (Yes, the covenant community of faith can fulfill this, but that’s another article.) In essence, the only people with any just authority from God to exercise influence and power in your daily existence are those related by blood or covenant. Fundamental to the Covenant of Noah was that necessity of executing those who pose a serious threat to social cohesion fell on the shoulders of blood kin, particularly the nearest clan elder. Consider the implications if the only person who can hold the duty of taking your life over criminal acts is your own grandfather, as it were.
So when your life is mostly a matter of rural agriculture, as it was for ancient Israel, land ownership becomes an issue. Starting at the tribal level and working its way down to the smallest extended family household, real estate needs to be kept in the family. The idea is to avoid inserting aliens into your clan society. It’s okay if someone in the neighboring community, who happens to be wealthy, should temporarily hold title to a field in your village, but it shouldn’t be permanent. This disrupts social stability, introducing an element of lesser accountability. Everything must remain a matter of relations between persons, and any degree of depersonalizing business is simply wrong, in the sense it removes that accountability. While there are good people out there, there are at least as many bad people, and lots of folks who aren’t very much of either good or bad, just sort of decent. The threat is generalized; in a general sense you can’t allow outsiders to hold property inside your communal boundaries.
So God left this Levirate Law as a provision to strengthen the local claim over the turf. It’s not really about the real estate itself, but the mechanism of cohesion. God can still destroy the local society by way of attrition, if He sees the need by His own divine estimation, but our attention is focused on the mechanisms for making and keeping a stable society. It’s fundamental to human nature we treat our blood kin better than anyone else, and so we should. That’s proper moral living. Thus, the Levirate is all about preventing property from drifting out of the local ownership, and keeping the proper lines of inheritance working.
So what’s wrong with, say, nepotism is not bringing in the family, but it’s wrong to assume someone wouldn’t and shouldn’t bring in their family. The system is wrong when nepotism is regarded as a problem. Creating a system which is designed to operate best without nepotism is an evil system.
We have so very much to learn and unlearn to live justly before the Lord.